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The Scottish Nation

SAGE, JOHN, a learned Episcopalian divine, and controversial writer, the son of Captain Sage, a royalist officer of merit, was born in the parish of Creich, Fifeshire, in 1652. He received his education at the university of St. Andrews, and obtained the degree of M.A. about 1672. He was afterwards appointed schoolmaster of Bingry in his native county, and subsequently of Tippermuir in Perthshire. In 1684 he was admitted into priest’s orders by the archbishop of Glasgow, when he became minister of one of the churches in that city, and soon after he was appointed clerk of the diocesan synod. At the Revolution, when the Episcopalian clergy were deprived of their charges, he went to Edinburgh, where he employed himself in writing some of his controversial works. As he occasionally preached in the Episcopalian chapels of that city, he was summoned before the privy council to take the oath of allegiance; but refusing to comply, he was prohibited from exercising his ministerial functions within the city and suburbs, and formally banished from the metropolis. He found a refuge at Kinross, in the house of Sir William Bruce, sheriff of that county. In 1695 he published at London a work without his name, entitled ‘The Fundamental Charter of Presbytery examined,’ directed against the Presbyterian form of church government. “Although,” says his biographer Gillan (Life of Sage, 1714, 8vo. Pp. 21, 22), “all care was taken to conceal the author, yet it was to no purpose. In spite of all the caution that was used, it was soon discovered by the Presbyterians that Mr. Sage was the person who, to their eternal reproach, had thus exposed their principles and practices; and this filled them with the highest resentments against him, which they did not fail to express as often as they had opportunity; for his affairs, and a passionate desire of visiting his dear friends at Edinburgh, obliged him to venture thither for a few days. But though some of his colleagues who had been banished with him were allowed to stay there, or at least were connived at, yet he no sooner came to the city than he was observed on the street by a pricy councilor, whose greatest pleasure was to persecute the Episcopal clergy, and by his order he was carried before the magistrates of the city, and obliged to find bail to leave the town and never to return thither.” The following year, when his friend, Sir William Bruce, was imprisoned in the castle of Edinburgh, on suspicion of carrying on a treasonable correspondence with the exiled monarch, an order was issued for the apprehension of Mr. Sage, who had ventured to return to Edinburgh. The captain of the town-guard, with a party of soldiers, searched all the houses where he was accustomed to lodge or visit. After being concealed for about eight days, he escaped in a boat from Leith to Kinghorn, and subsequently, under the name of Jackson, lurked for many months in concealment in the hills of Angus. He afterwards became chaplain to the countess of Callendar and tutor to her son, the earl of Linlithgow, and subsequently accepted the invitation of Sir John Stewart of Grandtully, in Perthshire, to reside in his family as chaplain. To preserve the Episcopal succession in Scotland, Mr. Sage was, on 25th January 1705, consecrated a bishop, by the titular archbishop of Glasgow and the bishops of Edinburgh and Dunblane; Mr. John Fullarton, formerly Episcopal minister at Paisley, being also consecrated a bishop at the same time. We are told that “they concealed their characters, and performed no Episcopal deed, without special advice and authority from the consecrators.” In consequence, Bishop Sage assumed no jurisdiction over any body of presbyters, but only assisted the bishops who had been consecrated before the Revolution. Being afflicted with consumptive symptoms, in 1709 he proceeded to Bath, for the recovery of his health, and afterwards visited London, where he formed the acquaintance of many learned and eminent men of that age. He wrote, but never published, a tract against Mr. Dodwell’s ‘Natural Mortality of the Soul’ He returned to Scotland in 1710, and died at Edinburgh June 7, 1711. His works are:

The Second and Third Letters concerning the Persecution of the Episcopal Clergy in Scotland. Lond. 1689, 4to. The Rev. Thomas Morer having written the First, and Professor Monro the Fourth.
The Case of the Afflicted Clergy in Scotland. London, 1690, 4to.
An Account of the late Establishment of Presbyterian Government by the Parliament of Scotland in 1690. Lond. 1693.
The Fundamental Charter of Presbytery, as it hath lately been established in Scotland, examined and disproved; with a Preface in answer to the Vindicator of the Kirk (Gilbert Rule). Lond. 1695, 8vo. (Anon.). Lond. 1697, 8vo.
The Principles of the Cyprianic Age, with regard to Episcopal Power and Jurisdiction, asserted. Lond. 1695, 4to.
A Vindication of the Principles of the Cyprianic Age, on answer to G. Rule. Lond. 1701, 4to.
Some Remarks on a Letter from a Gentleman in the City to a Minister in the Country, on Mr. David Williamson’s Sermon before the General Assembly. Edin. 1703.
A brief Examination of some things in Mr. Meldrum’s Sermon against a Toleration to those of the Episcopal Persuasion. Lond. 1703, 4to.
The Reasonableness of a Toleration of those of the Episcopal Persuasion, inquired into purely on Church Principles. Lond. 1705, 8vo.
The Life of Gawin Douglas, Bishop of Dunkeld; prefixed to Ruddiman’s edition of Douglas’s Virgil. 1710.
An Introduction to Drummond’s History of the Five James’s, with Notes by Ruddiman. Edin. 1711.
He left in manuscript several treatises on various subjects, which were published at London in 1714, and projected, among other things, the publication of ‘An impartial and accurate Survey of the Westminster Confession of Faith.’ He also intended to have employed his pen ‘on the Rise and History of the Commission of the General Assembly,’ a design which he did not live to execute.

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